By Abdel Bari Atwan
The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, continues to take an honourable and dignified stance against Israeli arrogance, and exposes the continuing war crimes against the Gaza Strip. Two days ago during a reception in Ankara for his Lebanese counterpart, Saad Al-Hariri, he launched a fierce tirade against the Israeli government, citing its breach of more than one hundred international resolutions and its excessive use of force against a largely civilian, besieged population in Gaza.
Erdogan fights for the weak and destitute while countries with so-called moderate leaders strengthen the blockade against them. The moderates’ intention is to force the Palestinians to kneel at the feet of the Israelis and Americans and beg forgiveness for the crime of resistance to the illegal occupation of their land.
The Arab media, which is dominated by moderate countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, does not dare to describe Israel as “the enemy” and tries to avoid describing the Palestinian victims of Israeli aggression as martyrs. Increasingly vulgar television channels spread ignorance in these countries. Meanwhile, Turkey and its honoured people produce a TV series of the calibre of “Valley of the Wolves” (which no Arab country would ever broadcast, never mind produce), which depicts the slaughter of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers in Gaza last year.
We do not fear that Erdogan will be attacked by Israel, but by Israel’s Arab allies, who are guarding its borders, carrying out its orders and collaborating with it against the resistance, Turkey, Iran and any other country that struggles for Palestinian rights. Erdogan chose to stand up to Israel and cancelled military exercises in Turkey rather than take part with the Zionist state. Similarly, he has opted to turn his back on the United States, in preparation for withdrawal from NATO.
Turkey’s Prime Minister, who is the leader of the Islamist Justice and Development Party, did not take this decision arbitrarily, or as a result of a mood change. It was based on good planning and the acquisition of real political power in the country, summarised thus:
1. Erdogan dismantled the Ataturk state piece by piece, returning Turkey to its eastern Islamic roots and bringing to an end its anti-Islam and anti-Muslim practices, as well as the policies that saw it enslaved to the West. What helped him was the West’s racism and the hostility of most Western countries to Islam, manifested in regular refusals of Turkey’s applications to join the European Union, despite the distinguished service it provided to Western Europe as a member of NATO facing the Soviet Empire during the Cold War.
2. The Prime Minister and his party worked over the past ten years to introduce internal reforms; huge economical, political and social reforms, under the guise of responding to the conditions for joining the EU. These democratic reforms led to a reduction in the role of the military establishment which used to cling fiercely to Ataturk’s legacy, favouring Turkey’s secular civil institutions.
3. New markets were opened for Turkish goods in the Middle East and North Africa through setting up free-zones with Syria and cancelling visa requirements for citizens of most Arab countries. Turkish companies constructed a number of infrastructure projects and airports in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Turkey also signed treaties and preferential trade agreements with most Arab states, and Turkish trade with these countries was valued at $32 billion, a figure that could double in five years.
4. Erdogan hired Professor Ahmet Davutoglu as Foreign Minister, who is not only described as very “shrewd” but also an “Ottoman extremist”. Davutoglu engineered the move to the east through regular visits to Iran, Iraq and Kurdistan Iraq, and he succeeded in resolving disputes between Turkey and these countries.
5. The Turkish government’s overtures towards the Kurds inside Turkey and abroad came at a very critical time, as Erdogan removed the Americans’ strong card which they have always used against Turkey and Iraq. He recognized the Kurdish language and culture – affording them both official status and increased investment in the Kurdish areas. In return, the Kurds discovered that their American ally cannot be relied upon in light of its reduced influence and near-certain defeats in Afghanistan and Iraq. The importance of emerging powers such as India, China, Brazil and Russia also played a role.
6. Erdogan dealt Israel a severe blow through Turkey’s reconciliation with Armenia. Israel has always used this dispute to blackmail Turkey by using the Jewish lobby in America to neutralise the hostility in favour of the Turks in the face of a strong Armenian lobby.
7. The Prime Minister and his party sensed major changes inside Turkish society, both the growing hostility towards America and Israel and the increasing Islamic fervour, which appeared clearly during the Israeli aggression against Gaza.
8. The Turkish government has built a strong economy based on careful developmental plans in areas such as investment in the agriculture and industry fields and the export of Turkish expertise to neighbouring countries. This policy helped Turkey to rank 17th on the list of major economies in the world; and all this despite the absence of oil and gas.
9. Erdogan realized that there is a strategic void in the Middle East, with Iraq falling apart and Egypt’s weakness due to an old, humiliated leadership; he saw American influence receding in the region and across the world due to the debacle of the Iraq war; and recognised that the Arab states are now like the ailing Ottoman Turkey prior to World War I. He thus pushed Turkey forward to fill this void before Israel or Iran could do it.
10. The position of Erdogan’s Turkey with regard to Iran’s nuclear programme is honourable; he supports Iran’r right to posses such a programme and said frankly, “Those who do not want Iran to have a nuclear programme, have to abandon their own similar programmes first.” He made the statement at this time when Arab leaders are plotting secretly with Israel against Iran.
We envy the Turkish people for having a smart Islamic leadership such as Mr. Erdogan and the group of people around him, who have brought Turkey back to the forefront of geopolitics in the region. They have given back the country its Islamic identity on the basis of justice, democracy, equality and support for the weak.
This model leadership does not exist in Arab countries, either now or in the near future, because dictatorships prevail, along with all that they engender, including corruption, repression, confiscation of freedom and looting of public money.
We call upon Mr. Erdogan and his colleagues to export his model to us, the Arabs, with their goods and construction companies. Helping to build a new Arab human being built on moderate Islamic principles is more important than building airports, roads and ports; or maybe the two processes should take place concurrently.
Source: Al-Quds Al-Arabi
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.